HOW I CAME TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST
Psychologists tell us that the four most dramatic and life-changing events in anyone's life are the following, listed in the order of their importance and the depth of their effect upon our lives. The first and the most life changing event of all is the experience of knowing God or spiritual conversion. The second is marriage. The third is the birth of a baby into the family, and the fourth is the death of a family member. I have lived long enough to experience all four of these life-changing events.
My earliest awakening toward God and spiritual things was when I was about two years old. My mother was holding me in her arms and our family was attending a revival meeting in Roscoe, Texas. The preacher was shouting and stomping as he preached and it scared me half to death. I remember that it scared me so much I started crying.
I learned very early in life that God is good and the devil is bad. Good people go to heaven when they die and bad people go to hell. I didn’t know much about heaven or hell but I knew enough to know that I didn’t want to go to hell and I did want to go to heaven. I thought that if my good deeds weighed more than my bad deeds when I died, God would let me into heaven. At the time I did not know why Jesus died on the cross. So, as a very small boy I started trying to be good. It wasn’t long before I stopped trying. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not be good. So I gave it up, thinking it would be easier later on in life.
It may seem unusual for someone so young to have such thoughts as these. But after years of working with small children, as a father of seven, as a public school teacher and in children's evangelism, I have no doubt that very small children can believe on Christ and receive him as Savior.
When I was eleven years of age I attended a tent revival in Chester, Arkansas along with my big brother and some of our gang. Night after night when the invitation was given to receive Christ I wanted to respond, but I didn’t want to be laughed at by my "tough" friends.
One night the preacher said that if we were ashamed of Jesus before men he would be ashamed of us before his Father. The fear of the Lord struck my heart when I heard that. As I stood there with this battle between the fear of God and the fear of man going on inside me, suddenly Bud, my big brother stepped out and walked down the isle to receive Jesus. I was right behind him. Years later Bud was one of the first American airmen killed in the Vietnam War. I believe I'll see him again in heaven.
When we walked home that night, I felt so good! I had peace with God for the very first time, knowing that my sins were forgiven and that when I died I would go to heaven. For the next few weeks I prayed all the time and sang the songs I had learned at the tent meetings, but little by little the spiritual fires within me began to die down and cool off.
I was raised in a home where we seldom ever went to church. The effect of the revival in Roscoe on my family did not last long and my Dad had a serious drinking problem. Drunkenness, foul language, partying, fighting, quarreling, and immorality surrounded me much of the time in those days. Over the years I had developed habits of lying, cheating, stealing, smoking, cursing, fighting and several other character traits of a typical budding criminal. Now that I had received Jesus into my life, things were different. But Satan does not give up easily and . . . one day I was alone in the kitchen when I saw a woman’s purse laying on the cabinet. As I stood there alone, looking longingly at that purse, I thought, "There must be money in that purse, but I can't steal it now 'cause I'm a Christian." Then I remembered what I had heard someone say about "the age of accountability." They said we are not responsible for our sins till we are twelve years old, and I was still eleven years old. It would be several months before I would turn twelve. So I prayed a short little prayer, "Lord, I will come back to you when I am twelve, but I am going to take that purse."
So I grabbed the purse, ran out the back door, ran down into the woods, scrambled behind a huge bolder and opened up the purse. My heart sank! It was EMPTY! I had sold out for NOTHING!
I was numb with guilt and regret and if I had only known about confession and forgiveness I would not have wandered in sin for the next several years. I did not know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin and that confession and repentance would have put me back on track again. But that was the beginning of six wasted years, living the life of a prodigal son. I did not return to God on my 12th birthday, or my 13th, or 14th, or 15th, or 16th, or 17th. I went all the way down to the pigpen following my selfish ways.
Then tragedy struck. My mother was killed in an auto accident on Mothers Day, May 10, 1952 in San Angelo, Texas. At the time I was working in the oil fields in Mineral Well, Texas. I was almost 18 years old. I can still hear the tremble in Bud's voice on the phone that night when he called to tell me that Mother had been in a car wreck. When I asked him how bad she was hurt he said, "Bob, she's dead." I can still hear those words and I still feel the pain in my heart at the memory of that awful night nearly fifty years ago. After Mother died, I knew I had to turn my back on the life of sin that I was living. I left Mineral Wells, moved back to San Angelo and started to attend a little Baptist church one block from my house. I made a public confession of my faith in Jesus and was baptized in the Concho River near Christoval, Texas in July of 1952. Jesus became my Lord, my life, my joy, and my strength. One day I found a little Gideon New Testament and as I read, I began to grow in the knowledge of God.
My girlfriend, Joni Montgomery, had secretly been praying for me that I would be saved. She had received the Lord when she was twelve. When I came back to God, she renewed her walk with the Lord and became my strongest support. We were eventually married and she has become my lifelong partner in this walk of faith.
Our pastor, T. H. Harding, asked me one day,
A few days later Pastor Harding took me to Howard Payne College in Brownwood, TX, about a hundred miles away, and helped me get enrolled. I had dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, but they allowed me to take an entrance exam and suddenly I was a college student!
When I was age 19 and Joni was 17 we got married and moved from Texas to California and over the next 25 years God blessed us with seven children, five daughters and two sons.
While still a teenager I committed my life to be a missionary and for the past 49 years I have been telling people about Jesus, and teaching others to do the same, all over the USA and in several foreign countries.
Jesus has made all the difference in my life. He provides all my needs. He picks me up when I fall down. He comforts me in times of sorrow. He awakens in me a desire to live a pure and holy life. He helps me to resolve my problems. He heals me when I get sick. He keeps me from the snares of the devil. He helps me forgive those who hurt me. He gives me wisdom and direction in the decisions of life. He reveals truth to me when I read the Bible. He enables me to teach, to share the good news of God's love with others. He gives me strength to reach out and help those in need. I am so thankful I heard the simple message of God’s love and forgiveness at an early age and gave my heart to Jesus!
If you have read my story this far, you are more than mildly interested in the things of God. I want to share with you how very simple it is to receive Jesus into your life. If you know that you have sinned, and if you believe that God loves you and sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins, you can pray this simple prayer and Jesus will come into your life:
Dear God, I know I have sinned, but I believe you love me and sent your son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die in my place to pay for all my sins. I invite you, Lord Jesus, to come into my heart right now and cleanse me from all my sins. Make me the kind of person you created me to be. Thank you for hearing my prayer and for coming into my life.
If this prayer is the desire of your heart, pray it right now. Jesus will come into your life and take away all your sins; he will transform your life and you will have peace with God that passes all understanding! If you would